As the Indianapolis Colts try to even their record in their home opener against the Minnesota Vikings, several players enter the game with some chips on their shoulders after last week's loss in Chicago. Andrew Luck threw three picks and would like to redeem himself against the young Vikings secondary. Donald Brown had two key drops that could have extended Colts' drives. No Colt has a bigger challenge this week than OT Anthony Castonzo, however.
Last week Castonzo and the Colts' offensive line struggled keeping the pocket clean for Andrew Luck. That resulted in three sacks and forced Luck into the three picks and a fumble. Although Castonzo's main responsibility, Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, didn't record a sack, last week's game is still one the second year pro would rather forget.
He had better not enter Sunday's game feeling sorry for himself because the Vikings' Jared Allen will be lining up opposite him this week. Allen is considered by many to be the preeminent sack artist of this era. To put Allen's prowess in perspective, he led the NFL in sacks last year with 22 in 16 games. Dallas' DeMarcus Ware was second with 19.5 sacks. Peppers had half that amount with 11.
Allen, in his ninth NFL season, already ranks ninth all-time on the NFL sacks list with 105. Atlanta's John Abraham, who is in his 13th season, is the only other active player in the top 20.
If Castonzo can keep Allen out of the Colts' backfield, that will give Luck an opportunity to attack a vulnerable Vikings' secondary that surrendered 260 yards and two touchdowns to Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert last week. Whereas Luck was facing a veteran Bears' secondary last week that made some big plays, outside of CB Antoine Winfield, the rest of the Vikings have a total of 25 games of NFL experience and one interception among them.
Don't expect Castonzo to do that alone. Look for offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to line up Dwayne Allen on Allen's side to chip and double team the Pro Bowler. Also expect the Colts to run and screen to Allen's side, hoping to slow him down a little and force LB Erin Henderson to make plays in space.
When the Colts drafted Castonzo in 2011, it was in hopes that he would become Peyton Manning's personal protector. Manning is gone, but Castonzo has an equally valuable commodity behind him in Luck. This week, he'll earn his paycheck blocking one of the all-time great pass rushers.
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